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SD County Will Enter Purple Tier On Saturday

A sign detailing how to protect against COVID-19 outside of Rubicon Deli in L...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: A sign detailing how to protect against COVID-19 outside of Rubicon Deli in La Jolla, Calif. July 21, 2020.

State data has landed San Diego County in the most restrictive tier of the state's COVID-19 reopening plan, meaning nonessential businesses now have one day to prepare for the regression.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer, said the restrictions associated with the purple tier will go into place just after midnight Friday.

Many nonessential businesses will be required to move to outdoor-only operations. These include restaurants, family entertainment centers, wineries, places of worship, movie theaters, museums, gyms, zoos, aquariums and cardrooms. Amusement parks, and live audience sporting events are closed. Bars, breweries and distilleries will be able to remain open as long as they are able to operate outside and with food on the same ticket as alcohol.

Retail businesses and shopping centers will be able to remain open with 25% of the building's capacity. No food courts will be permitted.

Schools will be able to remain open for in-person learning if they are already in session. If a district has not reopened for in-person learning, it must remain remote only. Offices are restricted to remote work only.

Remaining open are essential services, personal care services, barbershops, hair salons, outdoor playgrounds and recreational facilities.

San Diego County is far from the only jurisdiction sliding backward. San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Tuesday that 11 counties in California were preparing to move to more restrictive tiers. He said it was likely cases would continue to increase for weeks, even after the purple tier restrictions.

"Slowing the spread of COVID is like turning an aircraft carrier, it's not a jet ski," he said.

Fletcher also announced the county would give 40,000 masks to law enforcement officers and encouraged law enforcement agencies throughout the county to step up enforcement.

The county's demotion from the less-restrictive red tier is the result of two weeks of case rates that exceeded the threshold of 7 per 100,000 residents. In recent weeks, the region had an unadjusted rate well above the purple tier guidelines, but a significant effort to increase the volume of tests had allowed for an adjustment to bring it back to the red, or substantial, tier.

State officials reported Tuesday that San Diego County had an unadjusted new daily coronavirus case rate of 10.0 per 100,000. The adjusted case rate dropped to 8.9 per 100,000. Last week's unadjusted case rate was 8.7 per 100,000.

According to the reopening plan, a county has to report data exceeding a more restrictive tier's guidelines for two consecutive weeks before being moved to that tier. A county then has to be in that tier for a minimum of three weeks before it may move to a less restrictive tier.

Even as the number of cases continues to climb, the testing positivity rate for the region continues to decline. From last week's data, it dropped to 2.6%, a 0.8% decline. It still remains high enough for this metric to remain in the orange tier.

The state's health equity metric, which looks at the testing positivity for areas with the least healthy conditions, increased from 5.3% to 6.5% and remained in the red tier. This metric does not move counties backward to more restrictive tiers, but is required to advance.

The state data reflect the previous week's case numbers to determine where counties stand.

San Diego County health officials reported 483 new COVID-19 infections and seven deaths Tuesday, raising the region's total to 61,053 cases and 915 deaths.

No new data was reported Wednesday on Veterans Day.

Of the tests reported Tuesday, 5% returned positive, raising the 14- day rolling average of positive tests to 3.5%.

Of the total number of cases in the county, 4,084 — or 6.7% — have required hospitalization and 944 patients — or 1.5% of all cases — had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

Five new community outbreaks were reported Tuesday, one each in a restaurant/bar, grocery setting, retail setting, TK-12 school and a business setting. Over the previous seven days, 39 community outbreaks were confirmed. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

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